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Advancements in quality control at the mine site, and throughout the entire quality chain from production to
consumption, have been made in technology and automation. These have improved sample collection and
analysis processes. However, the basic purpose of quality and quantity monitoring, control and verification, which
is ultimately to provide information for risk management, has not changed.

Over the past 20 years, materials
handling facilities have become larger,
with higher throughput capacity and
faster conveyor belt speeds. This fact,
coupled with the increased emphasis
on accuracy and precision, has led to
a proliferation of mechanical sampling
systems throughout the quality chain.
Many systems have been installed and
are being used regularly at minesites,
washing plants, load-outs, terminals,
and plants where coal is consumed.

belt sampler have made this type

of mechanical sampling device as
commonplace worldwide as the more
traditional cross-stream samplers, which
are installed at converyor belt transfer
Another major component of a
mechanical sampling system is the
crusher. Since most mechanical
sampling systems include some degree
of preparation of the coal sample,
the downstream processing of the
sample material within the system is an
extremely important function.
Although it is necessary for all parts of
the mechanical sampling system to
operate properly and in sync, the
crusher is one of the more critical
mechanisms. This is the reason
why the latest SGS systems utilise
a toothed double-roll crusher with
cast alloy steel liners for the rolls.
Wear characteristics are improved
and maintenance costs are thereby

Cross-belt cutter entering coal stream

Partly because of this rapid growth

in mechanical sampling, standards
organizations have been very busy
developing new guidelines to cope with
this phenomenon. This has resulted in
the publication of the eight-part ISO
13909, Hard coal and coke- Mechanical
sampling in 2001.
Mechanical sampling systems have
existed for many decades, though they
have not always been used correctly.
However, in recent years improvements
in the design and conrol of the cross-

Other advances include a touch

screen control unit. This allows the
operator to update the systems
parameters by inputting new
password-secured operating
information whenever required,

The cross-belt sweep arm sampler

without the need for additional

programming. The touch screen is also
an easy way to monitor the status and
performance of the sampling system. In
addition, the most up-to-date mechanical
sampling systems are designed to
accommodate the installation of
an online coal analyser within its

The advent of the new breed of online
analyser (OLA) more than a decade



If calorific value is the main parameter
to be measured, does the dry ash-free
calorific value remain fairly consistent?

Double-roll crusher outside

ago did not have the same impact as

the innovations in mechanical sampling
during this period. This is because initially
the use of the OLA was extremely
limited, due to a lack of standardization
of the calibration process, which
is essential for an OLA to produce
meaningful results. OLA instrumentation
has improved over the years as have the
calibration procedures. OLAs are now
routinely installed and operated at mines,
washing plants, load-out facilities and
elsewhere, but specifically as process
control devices.
The following questions should be asked
to determine if an OLA is suitable for a
particular installation:
Do the economics of the process
control at this site justify the cost of an
What are the parameters that can be
controlled? For example, ash or sulphur.
If blending is a goal, are the feeders
responsive and scales installed for
each blend source, as well as the final
product stream?
Which parameters are for contract
purposes, but do not have to be
analysed in real-time?
What degree of accuracy is needed for
the process control?
Corollaries to the process control
accuracy include the following:
Is it well known that the calorific value,
volatile matter and sulphur dioxide are
not directly measured, but calculated
from other elements?
Are the limitations of microwave
technology for moisture determination
understood, particularly regarding
inherent moisture changes or

SGS provides a guide for planning the

calibration test procedure, verifying the
calibration itself and conducting an OLA
performance test. The source document
is ASTM D6543. Key elements are the
reference methods for sampling, sample
preparation and analysis, which must
be established and used consistently,
One additional key aspect is that the
laboratory used for routine quality
assurance should also be used for
During normal use, an OLA can be
compared to various routine samples,
such as shift samples or other samples
collected by the sampling system.
These routine samples can be used to
construct control charts that provide
an indication of the status of the OLA
calibration. However, when needed, the
one hour reference method is used to
make calibration adjustments.


The coal flow, moisture variations and
other conditions that can have an effect
on the coal stream or coal characteristics
must be reviewed. The number of
seams, coal types or blends to be used
in the test must be established, and
the widest range of ash and sulphur
values must be selected. The mechanical
sampling system should be inspected
and its bias test data must be reviewed.
Additionally, the suitability of the onsite
sample preparation facilities must be
evaluated and corrective action taken if
The one hour sample collaction period
must be synchronised with the OLA
computer clock. This should take into
consideration the lag time for the
mechanical sampling system to process
the sample (the one hour collection
period must be a full hour of coal flow).
The sampling system should be set
to collect at least the sample mass
specified in the standard during one hour
test periods. All of the proper protocols
for sample preparation and analysis must

be used and documented, and the OLA

data collection must be in accordance
with the manufacturers procedures.
During sample collection the actual coal
source, seam mineralogy, etc. should
be recorded and compared with the
optimal or design conditions. In general,
calibration samples are collected after a
period of time established in conjunction
with OLA manufacturer. During this initial
period, the manufacturer confirms that
the OLA and related software are fully

Once the calibration parametes are
instlaled in the analyser, verification
samples are collected in the same
manner as outlined above, in order to
confirm that the calibration paramters
are correct. Once the verification
is complete, the OLA is ready for
performance testing.

Performance test samples are collected
in the same manner as the calibration
and verification samples. One of the
recommended methods for performance
testing (in ASTM D65443) is the Grubbs
test, which requires the collection of
60 test sets. This test also required an
independent sample to be collected from
the coal flow, which can be extracted
from one of the reject streams within the
mechanical sampling system.

Calibration data must be reviewed and
calibration parameters established by the
manufacturer. The manufacturer must
also review verification data. However,
the performance test data should be
calculated and reviewed independently.


A routine evaluation method for OLA
utilises reference blocks. This eliminates
the effect of comparison to routine
sample analysis or the reference
sampling and analysis method. The
reference blocks, provided by the
manufacturer, are comparative tools
that are placed in the analysers path
(between the source and detector). The
analyser is set up to interrogate the block
with a raw calibration, which does not
change when it is re-calibrated.



The interrogation period is usually

four hours or as directed by the OLA
manufacturer. or as directed by the OLA
manufacturer. It is advisable to read the
calibration blocks before and after source
refreshment to provide a temporary
analyser calibration adjustment prior to
its updating via the reference method.
The objective of reference block testing
is to determine whether the analyser
is stable with respect to the last block
reading and/or historical information.
The reference blocks are not used to
calibrate the analyser. Optimal use of the
reference block should be verified with
the OLA manufacturer.


ASTM D6518: Standard Practice

for Bias Testing a Mechanical Coal
Sampling System.
It is impossible to design an effective
mechanical sampling system (MSS)
without knowing detailed information
about the characteristics of the material
to be put through the system and
where the system is to be installed.
The following points are some general
rudimentary requirements for the design
of MSS:
Apertures of cutters, chutes, etc. must
be at least 2.5 times the top-size of the
There must not be any choke points
within the system. The construction

Conceptually, a bias test on a coal

mechanical sampling system is a simple
comparison of the material extracted
by an MSS to the material from which
it was extracted. However, in practice
the bias test is complicated by the
existence of various statistical models,
experimental designs, and interpretive
techniques. However, in this instance
it is inappropriae to itemise the various
options available for bias testing
programmes. During a bias test, the
samples collected by the mechanical
sampling system are compared to
reference samples, which are typically
collected from a stopped conveyor belt
(stopped-belt samples).

Particle size and particle size distribution

affects the development of the sampling
programme for any material. In general,
the more quality variation among the
particles, the more difficult it is to sample
the material and the more intricate the
sampling scheme becomes. Therefore, it
is obvious that the various sizes, shapes
and densities of coal particles have an
enormous impact on the design of the
mechanical sampling system, as well as
how it is operated.
As indicated, there is an abundance of
mechanical sampling systems installed
around the world, with online analysers
utilizing coal streams from many of these
systems. Therefore, it is crucial that
mechanical sampling systems function
properly. Consequently, performance
tests (bias tests) are necessary to
document the accuracy of these
Although bias testing of mechanical
sampling systems have been conducted
for many decades, it is fortunate that
ISO, ASTM and other international
standards bodies have discussed and
documented the latest bias testing
techinques. The most notable standards
for the bias testing of coal mechanical
sampling systems are as follows:
ISO 13909: hard coal and coke Mechincal sampling - Part 8: Methods
of testing for bias.

Double-roll crusher inside

material should be as resistant as

possible to the material being sampled.
The entire system should be compact
and airtight, but with access doors
through which cutters chutes,
conveyors, etc. can be inspected.
Overall, the system must comply with
the pertinent international standard
being employed, e.g. ISO, ASTM.

A bias test is usually conducted at the
time the MSS is commissioned in order
to document its suitable for use at that
particular site. Bias testing can also be
part of an ongoing quality assurance


A bias test is usually preceded by a
critical inspection of the mechanical
sampling system. This is performed in
order to identify any obvious areas that
need corrective action before the actual
bias test is conducted. However, critical
inspections can also be used in ongoing
quality assurance programmes.
Mechanical sampling systems
are subject to wear and require
maintenance. They also require regular
verifications of their continued capability
to operate as designed. Once put into
service and shown to be capable, the
MSS must undergo frequent surveillance
to monitor and control its performance


and demonstrate that the device is

consistent from day to day. A common
method for monitoring and controlling
the MSS performance on an ongoing
basis is the critical inspection together
with statistical process conrol (SPC)
Since there are many different types
and designs of mechanical sampling
systems, which utilize a variety of
different components, it is not possible
to provide a critical inspection procedure
that will be universally appropriate.
However, the following general
requirements are offered:
An experienced inspector must be
perform the critical inspection.
There must be a report that records
each critical inspection.
Corrective action (or preventice action)
requests must be prepared when
problems are encountered.
Maintenance requests must also be
part of the critical inspection report.
All corrective, preventive or
maintenance requests must be
followed-up to ensure compliance.
During critical inspections,
measurements are made of the speed
and opening of the cutters, and historical
records are reviewed for feed rates,
lot sizes, etc. The theoretical extraction
ratio is determined and compared to the
actual extraction ratio. If the two values
are not within 10% of each other, then
at the outset there is reason to question
the measured values or the operation of
the MSS.
SPC charts are used in conjunction
with periodic critical inspections. They
are employed to document whether

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SGS Technical Paper #2003-10



the mechanical samplying system is
operating in the same manner as during
its last bias test. Conventional wisdom
indicated that if there are no changes to
the extraction ratio, then it is reasonable
to assume that there is no fundamental
change in the operating or bias condition
of the MSS. Individual and moving range
SPC charts are used for this purpose.
Where there is a deviation beyond a predetermined action limit, an investigation
in to the cause of the excursion is
Plotting and monitoring individual and
moving range SPC charts charts allows
the control of the two fundamental
characteristics of any process
distribution; its centre and its range.

This is the reason the weight (mass) of

the sample produced by the mechanical
sampling system for every 1000 t of
coal should be routinely determined and
plotted on SPC charts. This promotes
the continual real-time monitoring of the
MSS performance.

Clearly, there have been advancements
in technology, automation and
standardization involved with coal quality
monitoring, control and verification.
These improvements have been
significant and provide better information
on which to base risk management

An SPC individual chart, sample mass per 1000 t

An SPC moving range chart, sample mass per 1000 t

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